Details & Summary
Title: Words in Deep Blue
Author: Cath Crowley
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Release Date: June 6th 2017
Years ago, Rachel had a crush on Henry Jones. The day before she moved away, she tucked a love letter into his favorite book in his family’s bookshop. She waited. But Henry never came.
Now Rachel has returned to the city—and to the bookshop—to work alongside the boy she’d rather not see, if at all possible, for the rest of her life. But Rachel needs the distraction, and the escape. Her brother drowned months ago, and she can’t feel anything anymore. She can’t see her future.
Henry’s future isn’t looking too promising, either. His girlfriend dumped him. The bookstore is slipping away. And his family is breaking apart.
As Henry and Rachel work side by side—surrounded by books, watching love stories unfold, exchanging letters between the pages—they find hope in each other. Because life may be uncontrollable, even unbearable sometimes. But it’s possible that words, and love, and second chances are enough.
We all have those books we hope are as good as the blurb and the raving reviews suggest. It’s a real bummer when it doesn’t quite deliver, but when it does…it’s pure magic. That’s what Word in Deep Blue was for me. Pure magic. The words. The characters. The relationships. The many, many book references. It was all perfect, making this one of my all-time favourite contemporary YA books.
First, a quote because there are so many good ones.
“(…) before you say it words do matter. They’re not pointless. If they were pointless then they couldn’t start revolutions and they wouldn’t change history and they wouldn’t be the things that you think about every night before you go to sleep. If they were just words we wouldn’t listen to songs, we wouldn’t beg to be read to when we’re kids. If they were just words, then they’d have no meaning and stories wouldn’t have been around since before humans could write. We wouldn’t have learned to write. If they were just words then people wouldn’t fall in love because of them, feel bad because of them, ache because of them, stop aching because of them, have sex, quite a lot of the time, because of them.”
Okay, let’s start with the characters. Words in Deep Blue is one of those rare books where every character is well-developed, relatable and, above all, realistic. Often, authors who write about characters who’re book worms forget that those characters are also supposed to be regular teenagers and not merely a way to get their readers to recognize the importance of reading or to deliver a message. Crowley didn’t forget. While nearly every character in the book is well-read, they’re never preachy, “quirky” or pretentious. They’re teenagers with faults who mess up, keep secrets, and make mistakes. Henry, for example, pines after a girl who doesn’t appreciate his love.
“Amy doesn’t love you.”
George says it gently–like she’s sympathetically sticking a piece of glass straight through my left eye.”
Honestly, I wanted to throw a book at Henry’s head most of the time for pining after Amy…but I still love him. What I love about him (aside from him being a genuinely nice guy who’s passionate about love, life, and books) is that he’s not afraid to tell and show everyone how he’s feeling. And not just about Amy. When Rachel comes back into his life and she’s being rude and distant, he asks her how it’s possible she hasn’t missed him. He doesn’t sulk or brood or think about asking that question (or worries about the answer). He just flat-out asks her, thereby showing her she hurt him. I thought that was beautiful because not many male characters are open about their feelings and I’d love to see more characters like him. He’s also funny and dramatic (in a funny way), which is a huge bonus.
“How do you feel?” Lola asks.
“Like I’ve just had every single one of my organs harvested while I’m still alive.” “Good to know you’re not overreacting,” she says.
Rachel on the other hand is very different from Henry. She doesn’t share her feelings but chooses to hide them. She keeps a very important secret from Henry (and the others) for most of the book. While I understand why she does so, it also frustrated me. If she’d told Henry sooner, he would’ve understood her (rude) behaviour and a lot of complications could’ve been avoided. But, alas, things are not that easy.
And then there are all the side characters. I can’t remember the last book where I loved every single one of them. Every. Single. One. Rachel’s aunt, Henry’s parents, Lola, Frederick and Frieda, Cal, Martin … And don’t even get me started on George. She’s Henry’s “freak” sister who’s also well-read and funny but hesitant to open up because she’s bullied in school. She’s in love with a boy she’s been writing letters to (I can’t say who because of spoilers) and it gets complicated, but she remains wonderful throughout the book. She’s my favourite by far (aside from Henry maybe) and I wish Crowley would write a spin-off about her.
Lastly, I want to talk about a big part of this story which was (obviously) the books. More specifically, the Howling Books book store and the Letter Library. I love the concept of the Letter Library. People leaving notes and letters for each other is such a different way of communicating because I think it’s very personal (not to mention the potential for it to be really romantic). You don’t just leave random notes or annotate books for just anyone. It always means something (as shown by the snippets that were included in the book) and I love that.
“There are so many people in the Library, so many people who’ve left parts of themselves on the pages over the years”
Crowley did a wonderful job of describing the books store, making me wish there was a place just like it that I could visit in real life.
I also enjoyed the many, many references. Yes, a lot of classics were mentioned but a few contemporaries were mentioned too. George leaves letters in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars was mentioned a couple of times. I love that because it shows you don’t have to read nothing but classics all the time.
Words in Deep Blue is what dreams are made of. It’s one of those books that inspires me to read more, makes me proud to be part of the book community, and has made me appreciate the life I get to live. The writing is beautiful, the plot is engaging and by the end of it, you wish you could be friends with the characters and live in their world. I’m not one for rereading books over and over again, but I already know this will be an exception and I’ll find myself rereading my favourite passages.
“Love of the things that make you happy is steady too–books, words, music, art–these are lights that reappear in a broken universe.”